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Chapter 6

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Whenever Weysh stepped out of the city crush into the haven of Sir Lamontanya—commonly known as the dragon district—he felt he could breathe a little easier. Here the buildings didn't crowd so close, there weren't as many people, and the streets were wide enough that he could walk them in dragon form if he wanted, as many others did. The streets ringed a lush mountain, and the green rolling sight of it never grew old. The landscape of Sir Lamontanya defied traditional Creshen architecture. While the townhouses and shops of the rest of the city mimicked the pointed spires of the castle, the rooftops of Sir Lamontanya stayed resolutely flat, and many hosted gardens or even shops of their own.

Once Weysh graduated and took his post in the army, he'd be able to afford a very nice suite here until he ranked up enough to buy a manse. For now, his noisy townhouse on Lor Street was the best he could do on his salary as a delivery and ferry dragon, what with paying for tuition, and Weysh wasn't about to ask Montpierre for a single duvvy. But would his Given be happy there? Surely she would. He recalled his time on the Sunrise Isles as a child, when he would stay with his grandfather. Though he had incredibly fond memories of his time there, compared to the modern structures of Imperium Centre he'd always found the island accommodations to be quaint. Beautiful, but quaint. Besides, they'd only have to live on Lor Street for a year or so.

Weysh walked with a bounce in his step, literally—the streets were made of a soft, springy mixture that was much easier on dragon claws than cobblestone. A deep-blue dragonling scram- bled out from the intersection ahead and halted in front of him. Though the little one was only up to Weysh's knees, he spread his wings, roared a squeaky little roar and bared his teeth in a display of dominance. A bigger dragon with the same coloring, his father, presumably, based on their similar scents, lumbered around the corner and nudged his son wearily aside, bowing apologetically to Weysh.

"Think nothing of it," said Weysh, chuckling. He had been the same when he was young; worse because he had no dragon parents. He watched the father and son continue on. In a few years his Given would bear him a little one of his own, and he could pass on everything he'd learned; teach him how to be a dragon. By the Kindly Watcher, his dragonling would suffer none of the slings he'd had to while growing up.

But first, ludicrous as it was, it seemed he had to win his Given over. As much as he'd like to delude himself, Weysh knew he hadn't imagined the sour fear wafting off her at Northfall River. He needed to apologize and make good for his ill-conceived plan, and to that end, he'd decided to pay a trip to Darwish & Darwish Outfitters, known throughout Cresh as the finest purveyors of dragon-riding fashion. As they'd headed back to the academy, he'd caught another scent from her right before she'd begun to slip: a bright, citrusy whiff of excitement, and he clung to the fra- grant memory of it, using it to fuel his determination.

The bells above the shop door jingled as he entered.

"Wealth and favor!" the shop clerks shouted. A man in a waistcoat with his dark hair slicked back detached himself from a table of suede gloves. "How can I be of assistance?"

Weysh had the man fetch him a pair of goggles, two pairs of riding pants with the inner thighs and buttocks reinforced (which he suspected his Given would fill out quite nicely), a flying cap, a fine pair of tall black boots, and a pair of the aforementioned gloves, expertly keeping his dismay off his face at the total. When it was all stuffed into his messenger bag, he switched and took to the air.

Once above the city he breathed deeply, sifting through the air for that scent at once new and natural. No one had ever commanded his senses like her, as if she were a beacon on a foggy night. He felt he could sniff her out anywhere, and true to form, within minutes, the barest thread of her drifted teasingly under his nose. He turned sharply, just missing the edge of a decorative balustrade on a shop balcony, and dove after the scent.

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